They settle disputes, bug you to join floor programs and tell you to turn down the music in the community bathroom. This might be what most students think an RA does, but their job encompasses much more than that. Resident assistants also attend weekly staff meetings, participate in ongoing training, take a full class load (and maintain a cumulative 2.5 GPA), plan programs and keep up with an active social life.
Phil Hill, sophomore in marketing, is a first-time resident assistant this year for the first floor of West Hall.
“I wanted to be an RA because last year … my RAs were pretty awesome, they encouraged me to be the floor president,” Hill said, “I was like, ‘Oh, I think I can do that’ … and I thought I was doing half the RA stuff and not getting paid for it last year, why not try it out?”
Even before becoming an RA, Hill was “getting groups together to do stuff, inviting people to go to floor dinner … being social with the residents, helping people with their problems.” Now, however, he gets paid for it.
Hill also has added responsibilities as a resident assistant. RAs attend weekly staff meetings about upcoming programs, current hall events and anything and everything pertaining to West Hall. As an RA, Hill is “on duty” every other week (and three weekends a semester). On those nights, Hill walks the halls on all the floors at least two or three times just to check on West Hall residents — and if there are any shenanigans, he’s the one they call to deal with it.
“This is a line the RAs say a lot — ‘Oh that sounds fun, but I’m on duty,’” Hill said. “There’s always something going on on the weekend that you want to go do when you’re on duty, someone always asks you to go and you have to say no because you’re on duty.”
But, he added, “it’s not too bad.”
Hill also has to plan eight programs each semester, striving to create a variety that appeals to everyone on his floor and helps build the community. For example, Hill created a program called “Tea Time” after finding out that many of the residents on his floor liked tea.
“We just sat out in the lobby, sipped on some tea, had a good talk for like an hour or two. And then that was the start of them getting to know each other,” Hill said. “I had some rough times with my programming where the same seven people were showing up, and so I decided to change that up and start doing programs with other floors and get some more attendance and make planning a program a little bit more worthwhile.”
This year, Hill has organized activities like Late Night Cereal Night, Bonfire at Wildcat Creek, Cookie Decorating, a ping-pong tournament and a holiday celebration that included dinner, a gift exchange and a movie.
Hill said the best part of being an RA is “getting to know so many people and … making meaningful relationships with the other RAs.”
But it’s not all fun and games. As an RA, part of Hill’s job is “busting people for stuff and disciplining people.”
“I have to do it,” said Hill. “I have no problem actually doing it, but it’s obviously not the fun part because then you look like a jerk and then you have to write an [incident report], so it’s like writing … a detailed paper on what happened and who was involved and everything.”
Not that he has to deal with much: Hill said the first floor of West is “pretty low-key.”
“It’s very chill,” he said. “That’s my middle name — Phil ‘Chill’ Hill.”
Hill spent his freshman year in Goodnow Hall, and when he became an RA, he thought that was where he wanted to work. Instead, he was assigned to West Hall and discovered that it was the perfect fit.
“I like [West] more than Goodnow actually,” Hill said. “I miss the basketball courts and the tennis courts out back at Goodnow … but over here …. I got my RA friends, got a ping-pong table in my lobby now, and we’ve been doing nothing but remodeling West Hall all year. We got new elevators, got a ping-pong table, new pool table downstairs, painted the lobby, painted downstairs.”
His appreciation for West Hall is not the only thing that has changed this year. Hill said being an RA has helped him grow as a person.
“I’ve matured a lot through this, because as an RA … people are watching you, watching your actions,” he said. “So I like to lead by example, because I know people are watching me, so if I follow policies then they’re going to follow policies.”
A big part of being an RA is balancing all of the job’s duties with a full class load.
“This year I’ve added a planner to my life … I’ve never been a planner person before. I just remembered all the stuff I’m supposed to do,” Hill said. “But I don’t feel like it’s that hard; you just have to balance.”
So when does he actually do homework?
“There’s plenty of time during the middle of the day when no one’s bugging you because they’re all in class,” he said. “So during the middle of the day I get my study on, throw some headphones on and block everything else out. When I don’t actually want to get stuff done I just go out into the lobby.”
Hill compares the experience as a whole to parenthood.
“It’s like a crash course, kind of what it’s like to be a parent. Of like 35 people,” Hill said. “You have to discipline them, help them be successful in school. You’re around all the time, and they ask you questions all the time.”
Hill jokingly added that being an RA is “kind of like having kids, but not really, because they’re more responsible — actually they’re not more responsible, that’s a lie.”
Next year, Hill will be one of six RAs returning to West Hall. He has been working alone this year because the first floor is only assigned one RA, while all other floors have two. He said he looks forward to having a staff partner, helping residents plan their own events and building the community in West.
“Next year I feel like … I’ll be more of a leader,” Hill said. He said with his experience with filing incident reports, working with the front desk of the hall and learning more about the duties and demands of the job, he hopes to be “the one answering the questions, instead of asking the questions.”
Although being an RA is a tough job, full of responsibly and unexpected challenges, Hill describes it as “rewarding.”
“I just like to have fun, so that’s why I like the job,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like work half the time.”